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BBVA Compass Bowl Preview: SMU, Pitt Battle in One of the Last Games of the Season

BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 7, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: The only reason outside of SEC Media Days that anyone should ever go to Birmingham

The Sponsor: Don't all the letters tell you that it's a bank?

The Teams: SMU and Pittsburgh

How SMU got here: By rallying from a 32-point blowout in the season opener against Texas A&M to win five in a row. The problem is that the Mustangs then lost four of their last six, though Navy was the only truly bad team that beat SMU during that stretch. June Jones' passing offense put the Mustangs into the Top 3 in the offense-happy Conference USA in terms of passing yardage, though the attack wasn't terribly efficient. And while Zach Line was eighth in the NCAA with 122.4 yards per game, the running game overall was not much of a factor. (And Line won't be much of a factor in this game, given his season-ending injury.) But the defense was relatively strong, with TCU, Houston and Tulsa being the only teams aside from Texas A&M to score at least 30 points against the Mustangs. SMU, by the way, actually defeated TCU this year and likely cost the Horned Frogs a trip to the Sugar Bowl.

How Pitt got here: Without winning or losing more than two games in a row. Pittsburgh had an up-and-down season in 2011, with most of the ups coming against mediocre or worse teams and most of the downs coming against above-average or better teams. That got them the .500 record that persuaded Arizona State to hire head coach Todd Graham. You might recall Pitt as the team that pushed out coach Dave Wannstedt and fired Mike Haywood before the BBVA Compass Bowl last year. Were I the Pittsburgh administration, I would seriously consider declining any future invitations to Birmingham. In any case, this is an incredibly average team by the numbers, though the results should probably tell you as much.

College football fans care because: There are three college football games left.

SEC fans care because: This is technically "our" bowl, if you really care about that sort of thing, and the Mustangs are your stand-in for an SEC team, if you need a rooting interest of some sort.

Watch this game if...: You are concerned that there are only three college football games left.

The result: SMU 23, Pittsburgh 20